Search by IRC, Industry, sector, training package, IRC skills forecast or occupation.

Foundation skills:


Strong foundational skills, namely literacy and numeracy skills, but also digital and financial literacy, are extremely important for most jobs in the knowledge economy. Foundation skills underpin the productivity of Australia’s workforce and are instrumental in ensuring workers have the ability to upskill.

Training for foundation skills is undertaken through the Foundation Skills Training Package which is developed by the Education Industry Reference Committee.

Recent feedback from industry and providers indicate that the Foundation Skills Training Package is currently failing to provide foundation skills to learners, and a review of the training package is required in an attempt to address this.

COVID-19 impact

In their submission to the Australian Government, Critical Role of Blue Tech and Digital Skills in Australia's Economic Recovery, TAFE Directors Australia, CISCO Systems and Optus highlight the rapid shift to digital technologies which was prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and states that for all Australians to be able to participate and contribute to economic and social development, they will require some degree of digital literacy.

Foundation skills are one of the Australian Government’s priorities for skills development:

As part of the government’s COVID-19 response, the Foundation Skills for Your Future Program has been enhanced to allow the development and delivery of online resources and the SEE program will be funded for an estimated additional 14,485 places. The Australian and State and Territory Governments have all included additional assistance for business owners, their employees and those who need to upskill or reskill to access training in digital skills in their COVID-19 recovery plans and/or budgets.

Following a referral from the Australian Government Minister for Education and Youth, the House Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training will inquire into and report on adult literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills in Australia.

Industry skills needs

Generic skills

In their comprehensive 2019 Skills Forecasts, IRCs ranked a series of 12 generic skill categories, in priority order.

Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) (which aligns directly with Foundation skills) received an average ranking of 5th (out of 12) across all skills forecasts.


Priority skills

Foundation skills were also identified to a moderate degree by industries that reported on priority skills in their 2019 Skills Forecasts.

Two foundation skills were highlighted, including:

  • Language, literacy and numeracy, identified by:
  • Process Manufacturing
  • Employability skills for work readiness, identified by:
  • Furnishing

Internet job postings

Internet job vacancy postings that contained requests for foundation skills were examined for occupational trends. This includes writing, communication, typing and basic digital skills. The chart below compares the percentage of internet job postings in each occupation (ANZSCO Major Group) that requested foundation skills.

Internet job postings that requested foundation skills, by occupation (2016-20) 

Source: Burning Glass Technologies’ Labor Insight™ Real-time Labor Market Information tool


Foundation skills were most often explicitly requested for clerical and administrative positions, and least often for machinery operation or labouring positions. Overall these skills are often requested, with postings across all occupational types requesting foundation skills more than 20% of the time. Often these skills will be implicit in a job (such as expecting good digital literacy skills for IT workers), which may explain why these rates are not higher.

Employers are requesting a range of basic communication and administrative skills when recruiting for entry-level postions. It is difficult to understand the full extent to which these skills are required as for many occupations these skills are implicitly required and won’t be specifically asked for. For example, employers will not ask for basic communication or literacy skills when recruiting for managerial or highly technical postions.



Case studies


The Manufacturing industry is broad and encompasses a variety of sectors and job roles. The Manufacturing IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast indicated that continually advancing technology within the industry is having a notable impact on skills needs, particularly within the area of digital literacy. In addition, inadequate literacy and numeracy skills continue to be an ongoing issue for the workforce.

The following are quotes from the skills forecast, which highlight the importance of digital literacy skills to the industry, as well as a need to build on the foundation skills of literacy and numeracy within the manufacturing workforce:

Insufficient levels of literacy and numeracy: which was reported as a challenge by 99% of respondents. This was an increase from 92% in the previous year.

IRC members previously observed that although they would expect that learners would already possess the necessary underpinning Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) and STEM skills when enrolling in qualifications, this is often not the case.

Work conducted by CSIRO on advanced manufacturing identified that sustained growth in the sector will require investment and translation of enabling science and technology, including: sensors and data analytics, advanced materials, smart robotics and automation, 3D printing, and augmented, mixed and virtual reality, which in turn has implications for underpinning digital literacy and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills across the workforce.

Updated: 23 Mar 2021
To Top